November-December 2019 - Follow-Up: Booze Scootin' Boogie: My Time at The Whiskey Classic
Personally, there are a few things I have always associated with New Mexico from a non-native perspective: dusty ranches and whiskey-fueled, cowboy-influenced shenanigans. Being native to Kentucky, booze, particularly bourbon and the other brown adult juices, have always been inherent for me. So, on Oct. 12, 2019, the second annual Whiskey Classic fulfilled that kitschy dream. Fortunately, even though the event was scheduled during the second weekend of our beloved (and sometimes abhorred) Balloon Fiesta, the weather was perfect for a day of drinking under the New Mexican sun.
So, let's recount the day. It began in the middle of nowhere, Southeast of Santa Fe, near Lamy, N.M. My husband and I drove out to a parking lot with a sign simply labeled “Event” with and an arrow directing you to park. We shared a cigarette and meandered into the line for the shuttle bus. The group waiting for said bus to take us into the San Cristobal Movie Ranch (built by Netflix for “Godless”) was an extremely mixed bag of characters. We were all clearly pumped, but that was one severely quiet, uptight, though lavish, bus ride to the gates of the ranch. Upon arrival, the experience started immediately. We shifted ourselves over to the horse-drawn wagon that would pull us all the way into the event itself. Though the walk probably would've been just as quick, the ambiance was a nice touch.
We have arrived at the check-in table, instantly finding our other New Mexico Entertainment cohorts also checking in. To our surprise, we were given VIP passes, which came with a branded tote bag, a Whiskey Classic rocks glass and a blanket. The first and most important thing to experience was immediately to the left: the large tent filled with all of the distilleries and booze distributors. We decided before we filled our glasses repeatedly, we should take a quick, self-guided tour of the area. With a mix of Hollywood and Western authenticity, the movie set was as cool as it gets. The vibe of the crowd was already much more relaxed than that of our fellow bus-goers. To be fair, they'd already been “relaxing” ahead of us. The ranch consists of around 15 buildings, some with actual sets inside and some empty shells.
After a hurried walk around, we anxiously head back to the whiskey tent. Santa Fe Spirits were our first stop, offering single malt whiskeys and fine liqueurs smoked with hickory, applewood, Pinon, Ponderosa, and Oak. It does not get more New Mexican than this. Redacted. Safe House Distilling Co., based in Albuquerque brought their Teller XXX Green Chili Vodka that was a fantasy come true. As a purist and whiskey-enthusiast, I was a little surprised to see beer vendors such as Tractor Brewing, and other vendors offering vodkas, gins, and wines, but you gotta please the people. Other than the beers and wines, I can proudly report that I tried every friggin' booze presented at the event. With over a dozen different vendors, each with at least two different spirits to taste, this is a statement I make with pride. Some of the standouts were Corner Creek's bourbon from Denver, CO, Hollow Spirit's lavender vodka from Albuquerque, Three Chord's Twelve Bar Reserve bourbon from Clarence, NY and Crater Lake Spirits' Rock and Rye from Bend, OR. Thank God I'm a Kentucky girl or I might not have been able to make the full round and taste all of these fine libations. Even some of the big players like Bulliet, Johnny Walker and Crown Royal had to get in on this one-of-a-kind ordeal. Many of the distilleries offered craft cocktails for an additional cost. Did I mention a taste of each of the liquids was free with your admission? Um, yeah. That's worth an honorable mention.
After all of the boozing, we were relieved to have a private VIP area with no food lines and phenomenal catering courtesy of M'Tucci's Italian. They provided a shockingly excellent barbecue. Yes, barbecue. Also included in the VIP area were private bathrooms with no lines (a serious perk in my eyes) and outdoor couches, chairs, and tables for a more comfortable experience. While I can easily say we were enthralled in the whiskey tastings most of the day, there was also live music playing in the background and really cool classes on mixology, cigars and more. There were a handful of thematic vendors set up in some of the old-timey buildings around the faux town and bottles of water in troughs of ice-free for the grabbing. Hydration was an extreme must. After just a couple of hours and mass consumption, it was time to hop on the wagon, followed by the bus. I might also add that both the wagon and bus rides had a sincere, splendiferous, yet outrageous Kumbaya vibe as opposed to the ride in. We definitely made lots of new friends from the event after this day-drinking extravaganza. How could you not? The really cool thing was, that this event was so relaxed, even with all of the inhibition-lowering options, there was no violence, no one seemed out of control and everyone seemed to really love this affair. Though I recommend drinking more than your weight in water, if you plan to taste everything as we did, and possibly a nap in the car before driving, overall this was one of the coolest and most unique things New Mexico has offered thus far. Let's hope this event is around for all the years to come.